There are a lot of people out there that have pretty much zero knowledge of what physical therapy is. So I'd like to dedicate this post to a few of the more common misconceptions that we run into.
1. You need a doctor's referral. FALSE! Fortunately this is no longer the case. Our Professional organizations have worked hard so that you can just walk in off the street and see us!
2. Physical Therapists work mostly with old people. While older folks have been kind to our profession over the years, they're not our only customers. In fact, If you see us while you're young maybe you won't have to see us as much when you're old! We see people of all ages and treat many conditions. Most people don't realize that we treat headaches, TMJ disorders, vertigo, carpal tunnel and myriad of other conditions.
3. It's going to be torture! FALSE! My personal philosophy is that if you are seeking my help you are very likely in a lot of pain already. I work to keep treatment the least painful possible and to relieve your pain as quickly as possible. If I were to make you push though a lot of pain all the time it would just keep the pain cycle going. Our goal is to break the pain cycle and get you feeling better!
4. We just stretch hamstrings. If you google physical therapist and look at the images it brings up, you'll see many variations of a guy in a polo and khakis stretching someone's hamstring. While I'm happy to show you 1 or 5 ways to stretch your own hamstring, it's not what I'll be doing with you on a regular basis. Time spent in the office is better used on things you can't do on your own, such as joint, soft tissue and spinal manipulations, dry needling, laser therapy, lifestyle modification, home exercise program instruction, etc.
5. So, you have to go to school to be a physical therapist? Many people don't realize that it takes 7 years of post secondary education to become a licensed physical therapist and that a doctoral degree is the result. Most physical therapy programs are highly competitive and have in depth study of anatomy (with cadaver dissection), physiology, pathology, biomechanics, exercise and orthopedics just to name a few. A recent study showed that physical therapists are second only to orthopedic surgeons when it comes to knowledge of human anatomy among healthcare professionals. We are, or should be, your first choice when it comes to issues with your musculoskeletal system!
AJ Ludlow is a Doctor of Physical Therapy serving the Provo/Orem area and specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injuries.